Project to 3-D print for disabled students

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For many, putting on deodorant or holding an umbrella are ordinary tasks that do not involve a great deal of effort, but for someone born without limbs or someone who lost their limbs in military combat, these daily activities can become difficult, and sometimes impossible. A group of Sam Houston State University students are working on making those everyday tasks a little bit easier for disabled Bearkats.

Project Intrepid is a collaborative project between the Honors College and the Center for Innovation and Technology that is improving the lives of disabled students at no cost by using 3-D manufacturing.

Project Intrepid seeks to identify tasks that are difficult for disabled students and then subsequently develop devices to make those tasks easier to accomplish.

Senior Family and Consumer Science major, Magen Ross, who serves as project manager, was one of the students who visited the CFI.

“That changed everybody who went on that trip,” Ross said. “We came back more motivated to get things done and get products out there because you saw what it really entailed and who it was really helping.”

Director of the Center for the Intrepid, Pamela Zelbst, Ph.D., recognized the impact SHSU could have on the lives of wounded warriors.

“What better way to fulfill the university’s motto by creating these devices for our wounded veterans,” Zelbst said. “We are truly serving others.”

The devices manufactured at the CIT may seem to serve a minimal purpose, such as a deodorant holder, but Project Intrepid recognizes how important these small tasks can be.

“It was an amputee that wanted to be able to apply her own deodorant and wanted that independence,” David Yebra, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Safety said. “Where we want, ‘oh what car should I get,’ she just wants to be able to apply her own deodorant, and that’s all she’s asking for.”

The custom deodorant holder was 3-D manufactured here at SHSU and presented to the commander of the CFI earlier this month, according to Yebra.

Yebra recognized there are things SHSU could do to help after he visited the CIT in San Antonio, which provides state-of-the-art amputee care.

“There are still certain needs that just aren’t met by the wonderful prosthetics that are produced nowadays,” Yebra said.

Yebra and Zelbst then visited the CIT with students from the Honors College to share ideas.

“They expressed a number of different needs where we can help with 3-D manufacturing,” Yebra said.

Yebra, who served three tours in combat overseas, feels fortunate not to have suffered any traumatic injuries, but can sympathize with the wounded warriors.

“I can only imagine that they are seeking independence,” Yebra said. “They want to be a whole person again. [That] doesn’t mean they have to have their body parts. It moves them closer to the independence they are seeking.”

Project Intrepid hopes to also enhance the lives of disabled students.

Ross said she has spoken with students who are wheelchair bound that face difficulties when carrying their backpacks to and from class. One student, according to Ross, wears her backpack on the back of her wheelchair, but it renders her backpack, cellphone, and umbrella inaccessible.

Another student carries her backpack on her legs all day while on campus.

“We want something that sits their backpack up off their legs but that is [still] easily accessible,” Ross said.

Ross recognizes there is a variety of unmet needs disabled students have at SHSU.

“It’s something that you couldn’t think of that these students have expressed to us,” Ross said. “We really need creative minds to come up with creative solutions to these problems.”

Project Intrepid provides the devices they make to disabled students at no cost. The CIT is able to do this through donations from student organizations as well as off-campus resources.

Zelbst encouraged students to come down to the CIT and participate in the manufacturing itself.

“This is something the university and its students can be proud of, something the university can become known for,” Zelbst said.

According to Zelbst, the center is not limited to certain degree majors or particular projects and is open to all SHSU students.